by Wayne and Judy Bayliff on 17/01/13 at 4:03 am
There are Turkish Baths all over the world, but for a truly regal experience visit the Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam in Istanbul, Turkey.
In the year 1556, the wife of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent ordered a royal bath to be constructed over the ruins of an earlier public bath destroyed in 532 AD.
The new bath came to be called the Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam because of its close proximity to the famous Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya) – the 6th century Byzantine cathedral/mosque that is now a world-renowned museum. We were invited to experience this celebrated bath, and this is the story.
Years of service
The Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam pleasured Sultans and their guests from 1556 until 1910 when the baths were abruptly closed. The building was repurposed on several occasions between 1910 and 2011 when it was finally restored to its original glory and prominence as an opulent Turkish bath.
One of its more interesting functions after 1910 was as a place of confinement for inmates during times of “overflow” at the nearby Sultanahmet Prison.
Coincidentally, the Sultanahmet Prison is now a luxury hotel and the place we stayed during our visit to Istanbul. The exquisite Four Season’s Sultanahmet Hotel is the subject of a future story.
The bath as hamam
The Turkish hamams are all natural baths that generally provide mind and body therapies similar to those offered in tony spas around the world.
Ottoman style all natural baths, like the Ayasofya Hamami, are as much in vogue today as they were in antiquity.
Entering the hamam
The front entrance to the bath opens into a reception area. This is where the vitamin bar, rest area, and boutique shop are located.
Select from a wide array of services
After signing in, each customer is asked to select a bath program.
There are many hamam packages to choose from and we opted for the Pir-i Pak or “Full Cleansing Program.” We chose the Pir-i Pak because it offered the standard services of a traditional Turkish bath.
Here is what happens after you make your selection.
Men and women are separated and guided to their own private dressing rooms that are small, but tastefully furnished in exotic woods and well secured.